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Using roaming user profiles

Updated: January 21, 2005

Applies To: Windows Server 2003, Windows Server 2003 R2, Windows Server 2003 with SP1, Windows Server 2003 with SP2

Using roaming user profiles

Roaming user profiles enable users to log on to computers in a domain while preserving their user profile settings. User profiles are stored at an administrator specified server location. When a user logs on and has been authenticated within the directory service, the user profile, including user settings and documents, are copied to the local computer. User profile changes made on the local computer are then captured. Changes will then be copied to the user profile stored on the server and be applied the next time the user logs on. Mandatory user profiles are similar, but do not allow changes to be copied to the user profile stored on the server. For more information about implementing roaming user profiles, see Create a roaming user profile and Create a mandatory user profile.

From Active Directory, you can assign a server location for user profiles. If you type a user profile path into a user's domain account, a copy of the user's local user profile is saved both locally and in the user profile path location when the user logs off. The next time that user logs on, the profile stored in the user profile path location is compared to the copy in the local user profile folder, and the most recent copy of the profile is opened. The local user profile becomes a roaming user profile because of the centralized domain location. The user's settings and documents are available wherever the user logs on.

If the server is not available, the local cached copy of the roaming user profile is used. If the user has not logged on to the computer before, a new local user profile is created. In either case, if the centrally stored user profile is not available when the user logs on, it is not updated when the user logs off. If the user profile is not downloaded because of server problems, it is not loaded when the user logs off.

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